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Full text of "The dark"

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ANDREEV, Leonid Nikolaevich. 

1871-1919 

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THE DARK 



LEONID AND REEV 



THE HOGARTH PRESS 
RICHMOND 






LEONID ANDREEV/THE DARK 






THE DARK 

BY 

LEONID ANDRE E V 



TRANSLATED BY L.A.MAGNUS AND K.WALTER 



1922 



PUBLISHED BY LEONARD AND VIRGINIA WOOLF AT 
THE HOGARTH PRESS, HOGARTH HOUSE, RICHMOND 






Printed in Germany 



As a rule success had accompanied him in all his undertakings, 
but during the last three days complications had arisen which 
were unfavourable, not to say critical. His life, though a short one, 
had long been a game of terrible hazards ; he was accustomed to 
these sudden turns of chance and could deal with them; the stake 
had before been life itself, his own and others', and this by itself had 
taught him alertness, swiftness of thought, and a cold hard outlook. 

Chance this time had turned dangerously against him. A mere 
fluke, one of those unforeseeable accidents, had provided the police 
with a clue ; for two whole days the detectives had been on his track, 
a known terrorist and nihilist, drawing the net ever closer round him. 
One after another the conspirators' hiding places had been cut off 
from him; there still remained to him a few streets and boulevards 
and restaurants where he might go undiscovered. But his terrible 
exhaustion, after two sleepless nights and days of ceaseless vigilance, 
had brought in its train a new danger : he might drop off to sleep 
anywhere, on a seat in the boulevards, even in a cab, and be ludi* 
crously arrested as a common drunk. 

It was now Tuesday. On Thursday — only one day to spare — he 
had to carry out a terrorist act of great importance. The preparations 
for the assassination had kept the little organization busy for some 
considerable time. The »honour« of throwing the last and decisive 
bomb had fallen to him. He must retain self*command at all costs. 

But sleep . . . 

It was thus, on that October evening, standing at the crossing of 
crowded streets, that he decided to take refuge in a brothel. He would 
have had recourse earlier to this refuge, though none too secure, had 
it not been for the good reason that all his twenty*six years he had 
been chaste, had never known women as mere women, had never 
been in a brothel. Now and then he had had to fight sternly against 
such desires, but gradually restraint had become habit, and had pro* 
duced in him an attitude of calmness and complete indifference to? 
wards the sex. So now, at the thought of being forced into close 
contact with a woman who traded in such pleasures, and of perhaps 
seeing her naked, he had forebodings of any number of unpleasant* 
nesses and awkward moments. True, he had only decided to go to 
a prostitute now, when his passion was quiescent, when a step had 
to be taken so important and serious that virginity and the struggle 
for it lost their value. But in any event it was unpleasant, as might 



be any other obnoxious incident which must be endured. Once, when 
assisting in an important act, in which he played the part of second 
bomb * thrower, he saw a horse which had been killed with its 
hind parts burst open and the entrails exposed; this incident, its 
filthy and disgusting character, and its needlessness, gave him a simi* 
lar sensation — in its way even more unpleasant than the death of a 
comrade from an exploding bomb. And the more quietly and fear* 
lessly, and even joyously, he anticipated Thursday, when he would 
probably have to die, the more was he oppressed with the prospect 
of a night with a woman who practised love as a profession, — 
a thing utterly ridiculous, an incarnation of chaos, senseless, petty, 
and dirty. 

But there was no alternative. He was tottering with fatigue. 

II 

It was still early when he arrived, about ten o'clock; but the great 
white hall with its gilded chairs and mirrors was ready for the recep* 
tion of guests, and all the fires were lighted. The pianist was sitting 
beside the piano, a dapper young man in a black frock coat — for it 
was an expensive house. He was smoking, carefully flicking the ash 
of his cigarette so as not to soil the carpet, and glancing over the 
music. In the corner near the darkened dining room there sat all arow, 
on three chairs, three girls whispering to one another. 

As he entered with the manageress, two of the girls rose, but the 
third remained sitting; the two who rose were very decolletee, the 
third wore a deep black frock. The two looked at him straight, with 
a look of invitation, half indifferent, half weary ; but the third turned 
aside. Her profile was calm and simple, like that of any proper young 
maiden, — a thoughtful face. Apparently she had been telling a story 
to the others, and the others had been listening, and now she was 
continuing the train of thought, telling the rest in silence. 

And just because she was silent and reflective and did not look at 
him, because she had the appearance of a proper woman, he chose 
her. Never before having been to a brothel he did not know that in 
every well equipped house of this sort there are one or two such 
women, dressed in black like nuns or young widows, with pale faces, 
unrouged, even stern, their task being to provide an illusion of pro* 
priety to those who seek it, — but when they go with a man to their 
room, drinking and becoming like the rest, or even worse, — brawl* 



ing and breaking the china, dancing about, undressing and dancing 
into the hall naked, and even killing men who are too importunate. 
Such are the women with whom drunken students fall in love, whom 
they persuade to begin new, honourable lives. 

But of all this he knew nothing. And when she rose reluctantly, 
and looked at him with displeased and averted eyes, glancing at him 
sharply out of her pale and colourless face, he thought once again, 
»How very proper she is!« — and felt some relief. But, keeping up 
the dissimulation, constant, unavoidable, which caused him to have 
two lives and made his life a stage, he balanced himself elegantly on 
his feet from his heels to his toes, snapped his fingers, and said to 
the girl with the careless air of a habitual debauchee : — 

»Well, what about it, my dear? Shall we pay you a visit, now, eh? 
Where is your little nest?« 

»Now— at once ?« the girl asked, surprised, and raised her eyebrows. 
He smiled gaily, disclosing even rows of strong straight teeth, blushed 
deeply, and replied: 

» Certainly. Why lose valuable time?« 

»There will be some music soon. We can dance.« 

»Dance, my fair charmer? Silly twiddles, — catching oneself by 
the tail. As to the music, it can be heard from up there ?« 

She looked at him and smiled. 

» Fairly well.« 

She was beginning to like him. He had prominent cheek bones 
and was clean shaven; his cheeks and the lower part of the mouth, 
under the clean-cut lips, were slightly blue, as when darksbearded 
men shave. He had fine dark eyes, although in expression a little too 
unswerving; and they moved slowly and heavily, as though every 
movement were a great distance to be traversed. But despite his shaven 
face and easy manner, she reasoned, he did not resemble an actor, 
but rather an acclimatized foreigner. 

»You are not a German?« she asked. 

»Nnno. Not quite. I mean, I am an Englishman. Do you like 
Englishmen ?« 

»But what good Russian you speak! I should never have guess 
sed!« 

He recollected his British passport and the affected accent he had 
been using lately, and he blushed again at the thought of having 
forgotten to keep up the pretence as he ought to have done. Then 



with a slight frown, and assuming a business-like dryness of tone 
in which a certain amount of weariness was perceptible, he took the 
girl by the elbow and led her along swiftly. 

»No, I am a Russian, Russian. Now, where are we to go? Show 
me! This way?« 

The large mirror showed the fulMength figures of the pair sharply 
and clearly — she in black, pale, and at that distance very pretty; he 
also in black, and just as pale. 

Under the glare of the electric lights hanging from the ceiling his 
wide forehead and the hard mass of his prominent cheeks were pe* 
culiarly pale ; and both in his face and the girl's, where the eyes should 
have been, there were mysterious, fascinating hollows. And so strange 
was the picture of such a black stern couple against the white walls, 
reflected in the broad gilded mirror, that he was startled, and stop* 
ped short by the thought: »Like a bride and bridegroom.« And, as 
his imagination was dulled by want of sleep, and his thoughts brusque 
and inconsequent, the next moment, looking at the stern pair in 
mourning black, he thought: »As at a funeral.« And both notions 
were equally unpleasant. 

Apparently his feelings were shared by the girl. She silently, 
wonderingly glanced at herself and him, him and herself; she tried 
to wink — but the mirror would not respond to so slight a move* 
ment, and in the same dull and obstinate manner persisted in pictu* 
ring this black shamefast couple. And perhaps this pleased the girl, 
or recalled something of herself, something sad, for she smiled gently, 
and lightly pressed his clenched hand. 

»What a couple !« she said reflectively, and for some reason or 
other the dark bow of her eyelashes, with the fine curve of their 
droop, became more noticeable. 

This he did not observe, but resolutely dragged the girl along 
with him, she tapping her way on high French heels on the parquet 
flooring. 

There was a corridor, as there always is, and narrow dark little 
rooms with open doors. At one of them inscribed above in irregular 
handwriting, »Liuba«, they entered. 

»And now, Liuba,« he said, looking round and unconsciously rub* 
bing his hands one over the other, as though carefully washing them 
in cold water, »don't we want wine and something else? Or some 
fruit ?« 

8 



»Fruit is expensive here.« 

»That doesn't matter. Do you drink wine?« 

He had forgotten himself and was addressing her as you; he no* 
ticed it, but did not correct himself, for there had been something in 
that touch of her hand which made him unwilling to use the familiar 
pronoun, or play the lover and act a part. This feeling, too, passed 
on to her; she stared at him fixedly, and answered deliberately, with 
some uncertainty in her voice, though none in the language she used. 

»Thank you. I do drink. Wait a moment. I will return at once. I 
will tell them to bring only two pears and two apples. Will that be 
enough ?« 

It was now she who was using the pronoun of politeness, and 
through the tone of voice in which she spoke the word there could 
be heard the same irresolution, a slight hesitation and interrogation. 

But he paid no attention to this. When he was alone, he went 
swiftly to work surveying the room from all sides. He tested the clos* 
ing of the door— it closed splendidly, on the latch and on the key; 
went to the window, opened both casements — it was high up on the 
second floor and looked out on the courtyard. He frowned and shook 
his head. Then he experimented on the lights; there were two of 
them; when the one on the ceiling was switched off, the other by 
the bed lit up under a little red hood —just as in the best hotels. 

But the bed! 

He grinned and raised his shoulders, as though laughing silently, 
distorting his face as people must who are stealthy and for some 
reason secretive, even when they are alone. 

But the bed! 

He walked round it, handled the wadded counterpane, and then 
with a sudden longing to be gay and saucy in his joy at the sleep 
he was going to have, he twisted his head like a boy, stuck out his 
lips, made round eyes — all to express his highest degree of amaze* 
ment. But at once he became serious again, sat down, and wearily 
waited for Liuba. 

He wanted to think of Thursday, that he was now in a brothel — 
that he was already there — but the thought rebelled and stubbornly 
resisted him. Outraged sleep was taking its revenge. There on the 
street, sleep had been so gentle; now it no longer caressed his face, 
as with a soft downy hand, but made his own hands and feet writhe, 
and racked his body as though it would rend him asunder. 



Suddenly he began yawning, even to the point of tears. He took 
out his Browning and three full clips of cartridges, and savagely 
blew down the barrel, as into a key. It was all in order . . . and he 
longed insufferably for sleep. 

When the wine and fruit were brought in, and Liuba came in after 
them, he shut the door, only on the latch, and said: 

»Well ... all right . . . please help yourself, Liuba. Please do.« 

»And you . . . ?« The girl, surprised, looked at him askance. 

»I will . . . later on. For two nights, you see, I have been having a 
gay time of it and have had no sleep, and now . . .« He yawned 
frightfully, straining his jaws. 

»Well...?« 

»I will . . . later. Just an hour. I will . . . soon. And you, please drink 
and don't spare. And eat the fruit. Why did you get so little ?« 

»But may I go into the hall? There will be some music.« 

This was inconvenient. They might begin talking about him, the 
strange guest who had gone to sleep, and might start guessing . . . 
and that might be awkward. So, lightly restraining a yawn which 
was already riving his jaws, he said sedately and earnestly: 

»No, Liuba. I shall ask you to stay here. You see, I don't much 
like sleeping alone in a room. It's a mere whim, but you will excuse 
me . . .« 

»Certainly. You have paid your money and . . .« 

»Yes, yes,« and he blushed for the third time, »quite true, but 
that isn't what I mean . . . And, if you like . . . you can lie down too. 
I will leave room for you. Only please lie next the wall. You don't 
mind?« 

»No, I don't want to sleep. I will just sit here.« 

»Will you read?« 

»There are no books here.a 

»Would you like today's paper? I have it here. There is something 
interesting in it.« 

»No, thank you.« 

»As you like. You know best. But . . . with your permission . . .« 

He shut and locked the door and put the key in his pocket, 
without noticing the strange look with which the girl followed his 
movements. This courteous and decent conversation, such a curious 
conversation in this home of misery where the very air was thick 
with the vapours of drunken brawls, seemed to him perfectly natural 

10 



and quite convincing. With the same polite air, as though he were 
in the company of young ladies, he touched the edge of his frock* 
coat and asked : 

»Do you mind if I take off my coat?« 

The girl scowled slightly. 

»Certainly. Of course . . .« 

»And my waistcoat? It's so tight.« 

The girl did not answer, but merely shrugged her shoulders. 

»Here is my pocketbook . . . and money. Will you be so good as 
to take care of them for me?« 

»You had better leave them at the office. We always deposit such 
things there. « 

»Why?« He looked at the girl, and turned aside in confusion. 
»Oh, of course . . . but that's silly I« 

»But do you know how much you have on you? Some people 
don't know, and then afterwards . . .« 

»I understand. Quite. You desire . . .« 

He lay down, politely leaving room for her by the wall. And 
enchanting sleep, spaciously smiling, came and nestled with its downy 
cheek against his, gently fondled him, stroking his knees, and merci* 
fully settling to rest with its soft, velvety head on his shoulder. He 
smiled. 

»What makes you smile ?« The girl smiled involuntarily. 

»Because I am comfortable . . . How soft your pillows are! Now 
we can talk awhile. Why don't you drink something?* 

»I think I shall take off my things ... if you don't mind? I shall 
have to sit still so long.« 

Her voice had a touch of mockery. But at the sight of his unsus* 
pecting glance, and hearing his simple . . . »Certainly, please do« . . . 
she explained quite simply and seriously: »My corset is so tight. I 
shall take it off, too ... if I may.« 

»Certainly, you may.« 

He turned away, blushing. But, either because insomnia had so 
addled his thoughts, or because all his life he had been so innocent, 
his »you may« sounded quite natural to him ... in a house where all 
things were allowed and nobody ever thought of asking anybody's 
leave about anything. 

He heard a rustling of silk and the unbuttoning of a dress, — then 
a question: 

11 



»You are not an author ?« 

»What ... an author? No, I am not an author. Er . . . do you like 
authors ?« 

»No, I do not.« 

»Why? They are men . . .« He yawned — a long satisfying yawn. 

»And what is your name?« 

Silence . . . and then: 

»My name is . . . N— no! Peter.« 

»And what are you? What do you do?« 

The girl questioned him gently, but watchfully, and in a firm tone. 
The impression conveyed by her voice might have been that she was 
moving towards the bed. But he by now had ceased to hear her; he 
was already sleeping. For one moment an expiring thought had 
flickered in a single picture, in which time and space melted into a 
motley of shadows, gloom and light, motion and repose, a single 
picture of crowds and endless streets and a ceaseless turning of 
wheels depicted the whole of those two days and nights of frenzied 
chase. And in an instant all of this was stilled, dimmed, and had 

passed away, and then in the soft half-light, in the deep shadow, 

he had an image of one of the picture galleries where, the day before, 
for two hours, he had eluded his pursuers. He seemed to be sitting 
on a red velvet divan, which was extraordinarily soft, and staring 
fixedly at a huge black picture; and such a restfulness proceeded 
from that old black cracked canvas, his eyes were so much rested, 
his thoughts reposing so gently, that for some moments, even in his 
sleep, he began fighting sleep, confusedly afraid of it, as though of 
an unknown disquietude. 

But the music in the hall played on, the frequent little notes with 
bare heads hairless jostled up and down, and the thought came: 
»Now I can sleep. « And all at once he fell into a deep slumber. 
Triumphantly, eagerly, gentle glossy sleep soothed and embraced 

him and in profound silence masking their breathing they went 

their way into a pellucid melting sea. 

Thus he slept on — one hour and then another — on his back in 
the polite posture he had assumed awake, his right hand in his pocket 
holding the key and his revolver; the girl, neck and arms bare sit* 
ting opposite, smoking, sipping cognac, gazing on him. Now and 
then, to get a better view, she craned her rather thin, flexible neck, 
and, when she moved, her lips curled with two deep creases of con* 

12 



straint. She had not thought to turn out the hanging lamp, and 
under the strong light he was neither young nor old nor strange nor 
intimate, but some unkown being — the cheeks unknown, the nose 
ending in a bird's beak of shape unknown, the breathing, so even 
and powerful and strong, unknown. His thick hair was cut short in 
military fashion, and she noticed on the left temple, near the eye, 
a little whitened scar from some former wound. There was no cross 
strung round his neck. ^ 

The music in the hall died down or started afresh — piano and 
violin and songs and the pit-pat of dancing feet; but she sat on, 
smoking cigarettes and observing the sleeper. She stretched her neck 
inquisitively to look at his left hand which was lying on his breast 
— a very broad palm and strong restful fingers; it seemed to weigh 
heavily on him, to hurt, so with a careful movement she lifted it and 
let it down gently at the side of the big body on the bed. Then rose 
swiftly and noisily, and, as though she wanted to smash the switch, 
roughly turned out the upper lamp, lighting the lower one under 
the red hood. 

But even then he did not stir. His face in the pink light remained 
as unknown, as terrifying as before, in its immobility and repose. 

She turned aside, clasped her knees with her arms, now softly 
reddening, threw her head back and stared motionless at the ceiling 
from the dusky hollows of her unblinking eyes. And in her teeth, 
tightly pressed, there hung a cigarette, half smoked, cold, dead. 

Ill 

Something had happened, something unexpected and terrible, 
something considerable and of consequence, whilst he was sleeping — 
this much he understood at a flash, even before he was properly 
awake, at the first sound of a harsh, unknown voice. He took it in 
with that sharpened sense of danger which to him and his comrades 
had developed almost into a new special sense. He was up quickly 
and sat with his hand pressing his revolver hard, his eyes searchingly 
and sharply exploring the mist of the room. And when he saw her, 
in the same attitude, with her shoulders of that transparent rosy hue, 
and her bared breast, and those eyes so enigmatically dark and 
unswerving, he thought to himself: »She has betrayed me!« Then 
he looked again more steadily, sighed deeply, and corrected himself: 
»She hasn't yet, but she will.« 

13 



How miserable it all was I 

He drew a deep breath and asked curtly: »Well, what is it?« 

She said nothing. She smiled triumphantly and spitefully, looked 
at him and was silent, — as though she already accounted him her 
own, and without haste or hurry wanted to gloat over her power. 

»What did you say just now?« he repeated, with a frown. 

»What I said? I said, get up! that's what I said. Get up! 

You 've been asleep. It's time to play the game. This isn't a doss* 
house, my dearl« 

»Turn on the light,« he commanded. 

»I will not.« 

He turned it on himself, and under the white light he saw her 
eyes infinitely wicked and black and painted, and her mouth com* 
pressed with hatred and disdain. And he saw the naked arms, and 
all of her, alien, decisive, ready to do something irrevocable. He 
saw the prostitute — a creature repellant to him. 

»What 's the matter with you? Are you drunk ?« he asked, ser* 
iously disquieted, and put out a hand to take his high starched 
collar. But, anticipating his movement, she snatched at the collar, 
and without looking hurled it somewhere, anywhere, into the room, 
behind the chest of drawers, into a corner. 

»I won't give it to you!« 

»What are you after now?« he asked calmly enough, but gripping 
her arm with a hard firm pressure all round like an iron ring, so that 
the fingers of her thin hand drooped powerlessly. 

»Let go! You're hurting me!« she cried, and he held her more 
gently, but did not release his hold. 

»You — look for it!« 

»What is it, my dear? Are you going to shoot me? Isn't that a 
revolver you have in your pocket? Well, shoot, shoot! I'll see how 
you shoot me! Or would you like to tell me why you take a woman 
and then go to sleep by yourself and tell her to drink — 'Drink, 
and I'll go to sleep!' With his hair cut and clean shaven, so that he 
thinks nobody will know him! Do you want to go to the police, 
my dear? To the police, eh?« 

She laughed, loud and merrily — — and in a way that really 
frightened him, there was such a savage, despairing joy on her face, 
as though she had gone mad. And then the idea that all was going 
to be lost in such a ludicrous fashion, that he would have to commit 

14 



this silly, cruel, and senseless murder, and yet himself probably 
perish in vain, struck him with even greater horror. Deadly pale, 
but externally calm and with the same resolute air, he looked at her, 
followed her every movement and word, collecting his thoughts. 

»Well? Silent now? Lost your tongue ?« 

He could seize this snaky neck and crush it and she would never 
be able to utter a shriek. He could do it without compunction; actus 
ally, while he held her so firmly, she had been twisting herself about 
like a snake. 

»So you know, Liuba, what I am?« 

»I do. You« — she enunciated the words syllable by syllable, 
harshly and with an air of triumph — »you are a revolutionary! 
That's what you arel« 

»How do you know?« 

She smiled mockingly. 

»We aren't quite in the backwoods here.« 

»Well, suppose we admit that I . . .« 

»Pooh, suppose we admit! Let go of my arm! You 're all alike, 
you men, always ready to use your strength against a woman. 
Let go!« 

He released her arm and sat down, looking at her with a heavy 
and obstinate wonder. Something was moving about his cheekbones, 
a little ball of muscle, with a disturbed motion ; but his expression 
was tranquil, serious, somewhat melancholy. And this made him 
again seem strange and unknown to her — and also very handsome. 

»Well, will you know me again ?« she exclaimed, and surprised 
herself by adding a coarse reproof. He raised his brows in surprise 
and spoke to her calmly, but without averting his eyes, dully, remo* 
tely, as from a great distance. 

»Listen, Liuba, certainly you can betray me, not only you, but 
anyone in this house, or in the street. One shout — Halt! arrest him! 

— and men will come in their tens and hundreds and try to get me 

— or kill me. And for what reason? Merely because I have done no 
harm, merely because I have devoted all my life to these very people. 
Do you understand what it means, to sacrifice one's life?« 

»No, I do not,« the girl retorted harshly, but listening attentively. 

»Some do it out of stupidity, some for spite. Because, Liuba, a 
common man cannot endure a fine man, and the wicked do not love 
the good . . .« 

15 



»What should they love them for?« 

» Don't think, Liuba, that I am simply praising myself. But just 
look what my life has been, what it is! From the age of fourteen I 
have been rubbing along in prisons, expelled from school, expelled 
from home. My parents drove me out. Once I was nearly shot dead, 
saved only by a miracle. Try to picture it — all one's life passed in 
this way, all for the sake of others, and for oneself, nothing — 
yes, nothing !« 

»And what induced you to be so . . . fine?« she asked jeeringly. 
But he replied seriously: 

»I don't know. I must have been born so.« 

»And I was born such a common sort of thing! And yet I came 
into the world the same way you did, didn't I?« 

But he was not listening. All his mind was held by the vision of 
his own past, so unexpectedly, so simply heroic, called up by his 
own words. 

»Yes . . . think of it . . . I'm 26 years old and there are already 
grey hairs on my head, and yet until today . . .« he hesitated a mo* 
ment and went on firmly, proudly. »Up to now I have never known 
a woman . . . Never ... do you understand? You are the first I even 
see . . . like that. And to tell the truth, I am just a little ashamed to 
be looking at your bare arms.« 

The music rose again wildly, and the floor vibrated with the 
rhythm of dancing feet, broken by a drunken man's wild whoop, 
as though he were heading off a herd of stampeding horses. But in 
the room it was still, and the tobacco smoke rose serenely and melted 
into a ruddy mist. 

»That is what my life has been, Liuba !« 

He looked down, thoughtfully and sternly, overcome by the 
thought of a life so pure, so painfully beautiful. And she made no 
reply. 

Then she got up and threw a wrap around her bare shoulders. 
But at the sight of his look of astonishment, almost gratitude, she 
smiled and brusquely threw the wrap off, and so arranged her che* 
mise that one breast, rosy and soft, was left bared. He turned away 
and slightly shrugged his shoulders. 

»Take a drink !« she said. 

»No, I never drink anything.« 

»What, never drink! But you see, I do!« 

16 



»If you 've got some cigarettes, I'll have one.« 

»They're very common ones.« 

»I don't care.» 

And when he took the cigarette he noticed with pleasure that 
Liuba had put her chemise straight, and the hope that everything 
might yet go smoothly rose again. He was a poor smoker; he did 
not inhale, and womanlike held the cigarette between two straight 
fingers. 

»You don't even know how to smoke !« the girl exclaimed an* 
grily, and roughly tried to snatch the cigarette from him. »Throw 
it awayl« 

»Now, there you are, — angry with me again!« 

»Yes, I aml« 

»But why, Liuba? Just think I For two nights I haven't had any 
sleep, running about the town from pillar to post. And now, you're 
going to give me up and they'll have me in jail! That's a fine finish, 
isn't it? But, Liuba, I'll never give in alive . . .« 

He stopped short. 

»Will you shoot?« 

»Yes, I shall shoot.« 

The music had ceased for a time, but the wild drunken man was 
still halloing although apparently someone, as a joke or in earnest, 
had a hand on his mouth, the sounds coming through the com* 
pressed fingers even more desperately and savagely. The room reek* 
ed no longer with cheap fragrant soap, but with a thick, moist and 
repulsive odour; on one wall, uncovered, there hung messily and 
flat some petticoats and blouses. It was all so repugnant, so strange, 
to think that this also was life, — that people were living such a life 
day in, day out, — that he felt dazed and shrugged his shoulders 
and again looked round slowly. 

»What a place this is!« he said, bemused and resting his eyes on 
Liuba. 

»What of it?« she asked curtly. 

He looked at her as she stood there, and suddenly understood 
that she was to be pitied; and as soon as he had grasped this he did 
pity her — ardently. 

»You are poor, Liuba ?« 

»Well?« 

»Give me your hand.« 

17 



And, as though to assert in some way his relation to the girl 
as a human being, he took her hand and respectfully raised it to 
his lips. 

»You mean that . . . for me?« 

»Yes, Liuba, for you.« 

Then quite quietly, as though thanking him, she said: 

»Off you go! Get out of here, you blockhead!« 

He did not understand at once. 

»What?« 

»Off with you. Get out of here! Get out!« 

Silently, with a steady step, she crossed the room, picked up the 
white collar in the corner, and threw it to him with an expression 
of disgust, as though it had been the dirtiest, filthiest rag. And he, 
likewise silent, but with an expression of high resolve, without 
sparing even one glance at the girl, began quietly and slowly button* 
ing on the collar; but all in a moment, with a savage whine, Liuba 
struck him on his shaven cheek, with all her strength. The collar fell 
on the floor; he was shaken from his balance, but steadied himself. 
Pale, almost blue, but still silent, with the same look of lofty com? 
posure and proud incomprehension, he faced her with a stolid, 
unswerving stare. She was drawing rapid breaths, and staring at him 
in terror. 

»Well?« she gasped. 

He looked at her, still silent. 

Then, maddened beyond endurance by his haughty unrespons* 
iveness, terror-stricken by the stone wall against which she seemed 
to have flung herself, the girl lost all control of herself and seizing 
him by the shoulders forcibly thrust him down upon the bed. She 
bent over him, her face near his, and eye to eye. 

»Well? Why don't you answer? What are you trying to do with 
me? You scoundrel — that's what you are! Kiss my hand, will you? 
Come here to boast of yourself, will you? To show off your beauty! 
What are you trying to do with me? Do you think I'm so happy ?« 

She shook him by the shoulders, and her thin fingers, uncons* 
ciously curling and uncurling like a cat's claws, scratched his body 
through his shirt. 

»And he's never known a woman, hasn't he? You brute, you dare 
come here and brag about this to me — to me for whom any man is 
simply . . . Where's your decency? What do you think you're doing 

18 



with me? »I'll never give in alive.« That's the tune is it? But I — 
of course, I'm already dead. You understand, you rascal? I'm deadl 
But I spit in your face ... ph! ... in the face of the living! There! 
Get out, you brute! Get out of here !« 

With anger he could no longer command, he threw her off him 
and she fell backwards against the wall. Apparently his mind was 
still confused, for his next movement, equally rapid and decisive, 
was to seize his revolver and look at its grinning, toothless mouth. 
But the girl never so much as saw his bespattered face, damp and 
disfigured with demoniac rage, nor the black revolver. She covered 
her eyes with her hands, as though to crush them into the farthest 
recesses of her brain, stepped forward swiftly and steadily, and flung 
herself on the bed, face down, in a fit of silent sobbing. 

Everything had turned out different from what he had anticipated. 
Out of vapidity and nonsense there had crept forth a chaos — savage, 
drunken, and hysterical, with a crumpled, distorted face. 

He shrugged his shoulders, put away the useless revolver, and 
began pacing the room, up and down. The girl was crying. 

To and fro again. The girl was crying. He stopped beside her, his 
hands in his pockets, to look at her. 

There, under his eyes, face down, lay a woman sobbing frantic 
cally in an agony of unbearable sorrow, sobbing as one who looks 
suddenly back on a wasted life or a better life irretrievably lost. Her 
naked, finely tapering shoulder blades were heaving as though to 
heap fuel on the raging furnace within, and sinking as though to 
compress the tense anguish in her bosom. 

The music had started afresh; a mazurka now. And the jingle of 
spurs could be heard. Some officers must have come. 

Such tears he had never seen! He was disconcerted. He took his 
hands out of his pockets, and said gently : 

»Liuba!« 

Still she sobbed. 

»Liuba! What is the matter, Liuba?« 

She answered, but so faintly that he could not hear. He sat by 
her on the bed, bent his shorn head, and laid a hand on her should 
ders; and his hand responded with a quiver to the trembling of 
those pitiable shoulders. 

»I can't hear what you say, Liuba?« 

Then something distant, dull, soaked in tears: 

19 



»Wait — before you go . . . over there . . . some officers have arrived. 
They might see you . . . My God — to think . . .!« 

She sat up quickly on the bed, clasping her hands, eyes wide 
open staring into space in sudden fear. The terror lasted a moment, 
and then she again lay down and wept. Outside the spurs were 
jingling rhythmically, and the pianist with revived energy was 
conscientiously beating out a vigorous mazurka. 

»Take a drink of water, Liuba, dol You really must . . . please . . .« 
he whispered as he bent over her. Her ear was covered with her 
hair, and fearing that she could not hear, he carefully brushed aside 
those dark curling locks, and discovered a hot little red shell of 
an ear. 

» Please drink! I beg you!« 

»No, I don't want a drink. There's no need . . . It's all over.« 

She had quieted down by now. The sobbing stopped; one more 
long throe, and the shuddering shoulders were pathetically still; he 
was gently stroking her neck down to the lace of the chemise. 

»Are you better, Liuba ?« 

She said nothing, but heaved a long sigh and turned round, 
quickly glancing at him. Then she relaxed and sat up, looked up at 
him again, and rubbed his face and eyes with the plaits of her hair. 
She breathed another long sigh and quite gently and simply laid 
her head on his shoulder, and he as simply put an arm round her 
and drew her silently closer to him. His fingers touched her naked 
shoulder, but this no longer disturbed him. And thus they sat a 
long while without speaking, but with now and then a sigh, staring 
straight ahead of them into space with unseeing eyes. 

Suddenly there was a sound of voices and steps in the corridor, 
a jingling of spurs, quite gentle and elegant, like that of young 
officers. The sound came nearer and halted at the door. He rose 
promptly. Someone was knocking at the door, first tapping with 
knuckles and then banging with their fists, and a woman's voice 
called out: 

»Liubka, open the door!« 

He looked at her and waited. 

»Give me a handkerchief, « she said, without looking at him, and 
put her hand out. She rubbed her face hard, blew her nose noisily, 
threw the handkerchief on his knees, and went to the door. He wat* 
ched and waited. On her way to the door she turned out the light, 

20 



and it was all at once so dark that he could hear his own rather 
laboured breathing. And for some reason he sat down again on the 
creaking bed. 

»Well? What is it? What do you want?« she asked through the 
door, without opening it, her voice calm, but still betraying some 
uneasiness. 

Feminine voices were heard in argument and, cutting through 
them as scissors cut through a tangle of silk, a male voice, young, 
persuasive, seeming to proceed from behind strong white teeth and 
a soft moustache. Spurs jingled as though the speaker were respond* 
ing with a bow. And — strange! — Liuba smiled. 

»No. No! I don't want to come — Very well, do as you like. No, 
not for all your 'lovely Liubas'. I won't come.« Another knock at 
the door, laughter, a sound of scolding, more jingling of spurs, and 
it all moved away from the door, and died out somewhere down 
the corridor. In the dark, fumbling for his knee with hei hand, Liuba 
sat down by him, but did not lay her head on hh shoulder. She 
explained briefly: 

»The officers are starting a dance. They are summoning everybody. 
They are going to have a cotillion.« 

»Liuba,« he said, pleadingly, »please turn on the light. Don't be 
angry. « 

She got up without a word and switched it on. And now she no 
longer sat with him but, as before, on the chair facing the bed. Her 
face was surly, uninviting, but courteous — like that of a hostess 
who cannot help sitting through an uninvited and overlong visit. 

»You are not angry with me, Liuba?« 

»No. Why should I be?« 

»I wondered just now when you laughed so merrily.« 

She laughed without looking up. 

»When I feel merry, I laugh. But you can't leave just now. You'll 
have to wait until the officers get away. It won't be long.« 

»Very well. I will wait, thank you, Liuba.« 

She laughed again. 

»How courteous you are!« 

»Don't you like it?« 

»Not too well. What are you by birth ?« 

»My father is a doctor in the military service. My grandfather 
was a peasant. We are oldsritualists. « 

21 



Liuba, surprised, looked up at him. 

»Really? But you don't wear a cross round your neck.« 

»A cross !« he laughed. »We wear our cross on our backs.« 

The girl frowned slightly. 

» You want to go to sleep ? You'd better lie down than waste time 
in this way.« 

»No, I won't lie down. I don't want to sleep any more.« 
^As you wish.« 

There was a long and awkward silence. Liuba gazed downwards 
and fixed her attention on turning a ring on her finger. He looked 
round the room; each time be conspicuously avoided meeting the 
girl's glance, and rested his eyes on the unfinished glass of cognac. 
Then, all at once, it became overwhelmingly clear to him, even pal* 
pably evident, that all this was no longer what it seemed — that little 
yellow glass with the cognac, the girl so absorbed in twiddling her 
ring — and he himself, too, he was no longer himself, but someone 
else, someone alien and quite apart . . . Just then the music stopped 
and there followed a quiet jingle of spurs . . . He seemed to himself 
to have lived at some time, not in this house, but in a place very 
much like it; and that he had been an active and even important per* 
son to whom something was now happening. That strange feeling 
was so powerful that he shuddered and shook his head ; and the feel* 
ing soon left him, but not altogether; there remained some faint 
inexpungible trace of the turbulent memories of that which had never 
been. And quite often, in the course of this unusual night, he caught 
himself at a point whence he was looking down on some object or 
person, trying anxiously to recall them out of the deep darkness of 
the past, even out of what had never existed. 

Had he not known it for a thing impossible, he would have said 
that he had already been here on some occasion, so familiar and hab* 
itual had it all become. And this was unpleasant; it had already 
imperceptibly estranged him from himself and his comrades, and 
mysteriously made him a part of this institution, part of its wild and 
loathesome life. 

Silence became oppressive. 

»Why aren't you drinking ?« he asked. 

She shivered. 

»What?« 

»You haven't finished your glass, Liuba. Why don't you?« 

22 



»I don't want to by myself.« 

»I'm sorry, but I don't drink.« 

»And I don't drink by myself. « 

»I would rather eat a pear.« 

»Pray do so. They are here for that purposes 

»Wouldn't you like a pear?« 

The girl did not answer, but turned aside and caught his glance 
resting on her naked and translucently rosy shoulders, and flung a 
grey knitted shawl over them. 

»It's rather cold,« she said abruptly. 

»Yes, a little cold,« he agreed, although it was very warm in that 
little room. 

And again there was a long and tense silence. From the hall could 
be heard the catchy rhythm of a noisy ritornelio. 

»They are dancing,« he said. 

»They are dancing,« she replied. 

»What was it made you so angry with me, that you struck me, 
Liuba?« 

The girl hesitated and then answered sharply. 

»There was nothing else for it so I struck you. I didn't kill you, 
so why make a fuss about it?« 

Her smile was ugly. 

There was nothing else for it? She was looking straight at him with 
her dark rounded eyes, with a pallid and determined smile. Nothing 
else for it? He noticed a little dimple in her chin. It was hard to 
believe that this same head, this evil pallid head, had been lying on 
his shoulder a minute or two ago, that he had been caressing her! 

»So that's the reason,« he said gloomily. He paced to and fro in 
the room once or twice, but not toward the girl; and when he sat 
down again in the same place his face wore a strangely sullen and 
rather haughty expression. He said nothing, but, raising his eye* 
brows, stared at the ceiling where there played a spot of light with 
red edges. Something was crawling across it, something small and 
black, probably a belated autumn fly, revived by the heat. It had been 
brought to life in the night, and certainly understood nothing and 
would soon die. He sighed. 

But now she laughed aloud. 

»What is there to make you merry ?« He looked up coldly and 
turned aside. 

23 



»I suppose — you are very much like the author. You don't mind? 
He too at first pities me, and then gets angry, because I do not adore 
him as though he were an icon. He's so touchy. If he were God, 
he'd never forgive even one candle, « she smiled. 

»But how do you know any authors? You don't read anything.« 

»There is one . . .« she said curtly. 

He pondered, fixing on the girl his unswerving gaze, too calm in its 
scrutiny. Living in a turmoil himself, he began vaguely to recognize 
in the girl a rebellious spirit; and this agitated him and made him 
try to puzzle out why it was that her wrath had fallen on him. The 
fact that she had dealings with authors, and probably talked with 
them, that she could sometimes assume such an air of quiet dignity 
and yet could speak with such malice — all this gave her interest and 
endowed her blow with the character of something more earnest and 
serious than the mere hysterical outburst of a halkdrunk, halfenaked 
prostitute. At first he had been only indignant, not offended; but 
now, in this interval of reflection, he was gradually becoming affront* 
ed, and this not only intellectually. 

»Why did you hit me, Liuba? When you strike anyone in the 
face, you should tell them why.« 

He repeated his question sullenly and persistently. Obstinacy and 
stony hardness were expressed in his prominent cheekbones and the 
heavy brow that overshadowed his eyes. 

»I don't know,« she replied with the same obduracy, but avoiding 
his gaze. 

She did not wish to answer him. He shrugged his shoulders, and 
again went on, pertinaciously staring at the girl and weaving his 
fancies. His thought, usually sluggish, once aroused worked forcibly 
and could not be deterred — worked almost mechanically, turning 
into something like a hydraulic press which slowly sinking powders 
up stones and bends iron beams and crushes anyone that falls be* 
neath it — slowly, indifferently, irresistibly. Turning neither to the 
left nor to the right, unmoved by sophisms, evasions, allusions, his 
thought would push forward clumsily and heavily until it ground 
itself down or reached the logical extreme beyond which lay the void 
and mystery. He did not dissociate his thought from himself; he 
thought integrally, with the whole of his body ; and each logical deducs 
tion forthwith became real to him — as happens only with very healthy 
or direct persons who have not yet turned thought into a pastime. 

24 



And now, alarmed, driven out of his course, like a heavy locomo* 
tive that has slipped its rails on a pitch dark night and by some mi* 
racle continues leaping over hillocks and knolls, he was seeking a 
road and could not anyhow find it. The girl was still silent and evi* 
dently did not wish to talk. 

»Liuba, let us have a quiet talk. We must try to . . .« 

»I don't want to have a quiet talk.« 

Then again: 

»Listen, Liuba. You hit me, and I cannot let matters rest at that.« 

The girl smiled. 

»No? What will you do with me? Go to the police*court ?« 

»No, but I shall keep coming to you until you explain.*? 

»You will be welcome. Madame gets her profit.« 

»1 shall come tomorrow. I shall come . . .« 

And then, suddenly, almost simultaneously with the thought that 
neither tomorrow nor the day after would he be able to come, there 
flashed upon him the surmise, almost certainty, why the girl had 
struck him. His face cleared. 

»Oh, that's it then! That's why you struck me — because I pitied 
you? I offended you with my compassion? Yes, it is very stupid . . . 
but really, I didn't mean to — though of course it hurts. After all, 
you are human, just as I am . . .« 

»Just as you are?« she smiled. 

■»Well, let that pass. Give me your hand. Let's be friends.« 

She turned pale. 

»You want me to smack your face again ?« 

»Give me your hand — as friends — as friends, « he repeated 
sincerely, but for some reason in a low voice. 

But Liuba got up, amd moving a little distance away said: 

»Do you know . . . either you are a fool or you have been very 
little beaten !« 

She looked at him and laughed aloud. 

»My God, yes! My author! A most perfect author! How could 
one help hitting you, my dear?« 

She apparently chose the word author purposely, and with some 
special and definite meaning. And then, with supreme disdain, taking 
no more account of him than of a chattel or hopeless imbecile or 
drunkard, she walked freely up and down, and jeered: 

»Or was it that I hit you too hard? What are you whining about?« 

25 



He made no reply. 

»My author says that I'm a hard fighter. Perhaps he has a finer 
face. However hard one smacks your cheeks you seem to feel 
nothingl Oh, I've knocked lots of people's mouths about, but I've 
never been so sorry for anyone as for my author. 'Hit away', he 
says, T deserve it.' A drunken slobbererl It's disgusting hitting him. 
He's a brute. But I hurt my hand on your face. Here — kiss it where 
it smarts !« 

She thrust her hand to his lips and withdrew it swiftly. Her 
excitement was increasing. For some minutes it seemed as though 
she were choking in a fever; she rubbed her breast, breathing deeply 
through her open mouth, and unconsciously gripped the window 
curtains. And twice she stopped as she went to and fro to pour out 
a glass of cognac. The second time he remarked in a surly tone. 

»You said you didn't drink alone.« 

»I have no consistency, my dear,« she replied, quite simply. »I'm 
drugged, and unless I drink at intervals I stifle . . . This revives me.« 

Then all at once, as if she had only just noticed him, she raised 
her eyes in surprise, and laughed. 

»Ahl There you are — still there! Not gone yet! Sit down, sit 
down!« With a savage light in her eyes, she threw off the knitted 
wrap, again baring her rosy shoulders and thin soft arms. »Why 
am I all wrapped up like this? It's hot here and I ... I must have 
been saving him! How kind! . . . Look here, you might at least take 
your trousers off. It's only good manners here to do without your 
trousers. If your drawers are dirty I'll give you mine. Oh, never 
mind the slit. Here, put them on. Now, my dear boy, you must, 
you'll have to . . .« 

She laughed until she choked, begging and putting out her hands. 
Then she knelt down, clasping his hands, and implored him: — 

»Now, my darling, do! And I'll kiss your hand!« 

He moved away, and, with an air of sullen grief, said: 

»What are you trying to do with me, Liuba? What have I done 
to you? My relations with you are quite proper. I'm being per* 
fectly decent to you. What are you doing? What is it? Have I offen* 
ded you? If I have, forgive me. You know, I am ... I don't know 
about these things.« 

With a contemptuous shrug of her naked shoulders, Liuba rose 
from her knees and sat down, breathing heavily. 

26 



»You mean you won't put them on.« 

»I'm sorry, but I should look . . .« 

He began saying something, hesitated and continued irresolutely, 
drawling his words. 

»Listen, Liuba . . . It's quite true I . . . It's all such nonsense! But, 
if you wish it, then we can put out the light? Yes, put out the light, 
please, Liuba.« 

»What?« The girl's eyes opened wide in bewilderment. 

»I mean,« he continued hurriedly, »that you are a woman and I 
am . . . certainly I was in the wrong . . . Don't think it was compassion, 
Liuba. No, really it wasn't. Really not, Liuba. I . . . but turn out the 
light, Liuba.« 

With an agitated smile he put out his hands to her in the clumsy 
caressing way of a man who has never had to do with women. 
And this is what he saw : she clenched her fists with a slow effort 
and raised them to her chin and became, as it were, one immense 
gasp contained in her swelling bosom, her eyes huge and staring 
with horror and anguish and inexpressible contempt. 

»What is the matter, Liuba ?« he asked, shattered. And with a cold 
horror, without unclasping her fingers, almost inaudibly she exclaimed : 

»Oh, you brute! My God, what a brute you are!« 

Crimson with the shame of the reproof, and outraged in that he 
had himself committed outrage, he stamped furiously on the floor 
and hurled abuse in rough curt words at those wide staring eyes 
with their unfathomable terror and pain. 

»You prostitute, you! You refuse! Silence! Silence !« 

But she still quietly shook her head and repeated: 

»My God! My God! What a brute you are.« 

»Silence, you slut! You're drunk. You've gone mad! Do you 
think I need your filthy body? Do you think it's for such as you 
that I've kept myself? Sluts like you ought to be flogged !« And he 
lifted his hand as though to box her ears, but did not touch her. 

»My God! My God!« 

»And they even pity you! You ought to be extirpated, all this 
abomination and vice ! Those who go with you, too — all that rabble ! 
And you dare to think me anything of that sort!« 

He roughly took her by the hand and flung her on the chair. 

»Oh, you fine man! Fine? Fine, are you?« She laughed in a trans* 
port of delight. 

27 



»Fine? Yes. All my life! Honourable! Pure! But you? What are 
you, you harlot, you miserable beast ?« 

»A fine man!« The delight of it was intoxicating her. 

»Yes, fine. After tomorrow I shall be going to my death, for man* 
kind, for you . . . and you? You'll be sleeping with my executioners. 
Call your officers in here! I'll fling you at their feet and tell them, 
'Take your carrion!' Call them in!« 

Liuba slowly rose to her feet, and when, in a tempest of emotion, 
with proud distended nostrils, he looked at her, he was met by a 
look as proud and even more disdainful. Even pity shone in the 
arrogant eyes of the prostitute; she had mounted miraculously a 
step of the invisible throne and thence, with a cold and stern atten* 
tion, gazed down on something at her feet — something petty, cla* 
morous, pitiable. She no longer smiled; there was no trace of exci* 
tement; her eyes involuntarily seemed to look for the little step on 
which she was standing, so conscious was she of the new height 
from which she looked down on all things beneath her. 

»What are you?« he repeated, without moving away, as vehement 
as ever, but already subdued by that calm, haughty gaze. 

Then, with an ominous air of conviction, behind which lay a 
vista of millions of crushed lives and oceans of bitter tears and the 
unchecked fiery course of rebellion's cry for justice, she asked 
sternly : 

»What right have you to be fine when I am so common ?« 

»What?« he did not understand at once, but instantly felt a dread 
of the gulf that yawned in all its blackness at his very feet. 

»I have been waiting for you for a long time.« 

»You — waiting for me?« 

»Yes, I have been waiting for a fine man. For five years I have 
been waiting — perhaps longer. All those who came admitted they 
were brutes — and brutes they were. My author first said he was 
fine, but then admitted he was a brute, too. I don't want that sort.« 

•»What, then — what do you want?« 

»I want you, my darling, — you. Yes, just such as you.« She 
scrutinized him carefully and quietly from head to foot and affirm 
matively nodded her head. »Yes — thank you for coming.« 

Then he who feared nothing, trembled. 

»What do you want with me?« he asked, stepping back. 

»It had to be a fine man, my dear, a really fine man. Those other 

28 



drivellers — its no good striking them — you only dirty your hands. 
But now that I have struck you — why, I can kiss my own hand! 
Little hand, you have hit a fine man!« She smiled, and did in fact 
three times stroke and kiss her right hand. 

He looked at her wildly, and his usually deliberate thoughts 
coursed with the speed of desperation. There was approaching, like 
a black cloud, a Thing, terrible and irreparable as death. 

»What — what did you say?« 

»I said it's shameful to be fine. Didn't you know that?« 

»I never « he muttered, and sat down, deeply confused 

and no longer fully conscious of her. 

»Then learn it now.« 

She spoke calmly, and only the swelling of her halfebared bosom 
betrayed how profound the emotion was that lay suppressed behind 
that myriad cry. 

»Do you realise it now?« 

»What?« He was recovering himself. 

»Do you realise it, I say?« 

»Have patience !« 

»I am patient, my dear. I have waited five years. Why shouldn't 
I be patient for another five minutes ?« 

She sat back comfortably on the chair, as though in anticipation 
of a rare pleasure, and crossed her naked arms and closed her eyes. 

»You say it's shameful to be fine?« 

»Yes, my pet, shameful.« 

»But — what you say is . . .« He stopped short in terror. 

». . . is sol Are you afraid? Never mind, never mind — it's only 
at first that it's frightening.« 

»But afterwards ?« 

»You are going to stay with me and learn what comes afterwards. « 

He did not understand. 

»How can I stay?« 

The girl, in her turn, was startled. 

»Can you go anywhere now, after this? Look, dear, don't be 
deceitful. You're not a scoundrel like the others. You are really 
fine, and you will stay. It wasn't for nothing I waited for you.« 

»You've gone mad!« he exclaimed sharply. 

She looked up at him sternly, and even threatened him with her 
finger. 

29 



»That's not fine. Don't speak like that. When a truth comes to 
you, bow down humbly before it and do not say: 'You have gone 
mad.' That 's what my author says, 'you've gone mad!' But you be 
honourable 1« 

»And what if I don't stay?« he asked with a wan smile, his lips 
distorted and pale. 

»You will,« she said with conviction. » Where can you go now? 
You have nowhere to go. You are honourable. I saw it the moment 
you kissed my hand. A fool, I thought, but honourable. You are 
not offended that I mistook you for a fool? It was your own fault. 
Well — why did you offer me your innocence? You thought: I will 
give her my innocence and she will renounce it. Oh, you fool! You 
fool! At first I was even offended. Why, I thought, he doesn't even 
consider me a human being! And then I saw that this, too, came 
from this fineness of yours. And this was your calculation : I pay 
her my innocence, and in return I shall be even purer than be* 
fore and receive it back like a new shilling that hasn't been in cir* 
culation. I give it to the beggar and it will come back to me . . . No, 
my dear, that game is not coming off!« 

»N— not coming off?« 

»N— no, dear,« she drawled, »for I am not a fool. I've seen enough 
of these tradespeople. They pile up millions and then give a pound 
to a church and imagine they have righted themselves. No, dear, 
you must build me an entire church. You must give me the most 
precious thing you have, your innocence. Perhaps you are only 
giving up your innocence because it has become useless to you, be* 
cause it has tarnished. Are you getting married ?« 

»No.« 

»Supposing you had a bride awaiting you tomorrow with flowers and 
embraces and love, then would you give away your innocence, or not ?« 

»I don't know,« he said reflectively. 

»This is what I mean. I should have said: Take my life, but leave 
me my honour. You would give away the cheaper of the two. But, 
no — you must give me the dearest thing of all, the thing without 
which you cannot live — that and nothing else!« 

»But why should I give it away? Why?« 

»Why? Only that it may not be shameful to you.« 

»But, Liuba!« he exclaimed in bewilderment. »Listen! You your* 
self are . . .« 

30 



»Fine, you were going to say? I've heard that too from my author, 
more than once. But, my dear, that is not the truth. I'm just an ordi* 
nary girl, and you will stay and then you will know it.« 

»I will not stay,« he cried aloud, between his teeth. 

»Don't shriek, my dear. Shrieks avail nothing against the truth — 
I know that for myself.« And then in a whisper, looking straight in 
his eyes, she added: »For God, too, is fine!« 

»Well, and then?« 

»There's no more to be said. Think it out for yourself, and I'll stop 
talking. It's only five years since I went to church. That's the truth.« 

Truth? What truth? What was this unexplored terror, that he had 
never met before either in the face of death or in life itself? Truth? 

Square^cheeked, hard-headed, conscious only of the conflict in his 
soul, he sat there resting his head on his hands and slowly turning 
his eyes as though from one extreme of life to the other. And life 
was collapsing — as a badly glued chest, rained upon in the autumn, 
falls into unrecognisable fragments of what had been so beautiful. 
He remembered the good fellows with whom he had lived his life 
and worked in a marvellous union of joy and sorrow — and they 
seemed strange to him and their life incomprehensible and their work 
senseless. It was as though someone with mighty fingers had taken 
hold of his soul and snapped it in two, as one snaps a stick across 
one's knee, and flung the fragments far apart. It was only a few 
hours since he left there — and all his life seemed to have been 
spent here, in front of this halfnaked woman, listening to the distant 
music and the jingling of spurs; and that it would always be so. 
And he did not know which side to turn, up or down, but only that 
he was opposed, tormentingly opposed, to all that had that day be* 
come part of his very life and soul. Shameful to be fine . . . 

He recalled the books which had taught him how to live, and he 
smiled bitterly. Books! There before him was one book, sitting with 
bare shoulders, closed eyes, an expression of beatitude on a pale 
distracted face, waiting patiently to be read to the end. Shameful to 
be fine . . . 

And, all at once, with unbearable pain, griefsstricken, affrighted, 
he realized once and for all that that life was done with, that it had 
already become impossible for him to be fine! 

He had only lived in that he was fine, it had been his only joy, 
and his only weapon in the battle of life and death. 

31 



All this was gone. Nothing was left. The Dark! Whether he stayed 
there or returned to his own people . . . now, for him, his comrades 
were no more. 

Why had he come to this accursed house! Better had he remained 
on the street, surrendered to the police, gone to prison where it was 
possible and even not disgraceful to be fine. And now it was too 
late even for prison. 

»Are you crying ?« the girl asked, perturbed. 

»No,« he answered curtly. »I never cry.« 

»And no need, dearie; we women can weep; you needn't. If you 
wept, too, who would there be to give an answer to God?« 

She was his? This woman was his? 

»Liuba,« he cried in anguish, »what can I do? What can I do?« 

»Stay with me. You can stay with me, for now you are mine.« 

»And They?« 

The girl frowned. 

»What sort of people are They?« 

»Men! Men!« he exclaimed in a frenzy. »Men with whom I used 
to work. It was not for myself— no, not for selfssatisfaction that 
I bore all this, that I was getting ready to carry out this assassination !« 

»Don't talk to me about those people,« she said sternly, though 
her lips trembled. »Don't mention them to me or I shall quarrel 
with you again. You hear me?« 

»But what are you?« he asked amazed. 

»I? — perhaps a curl And all of us cursl But dearie, be careful! 
You've been able to take shelter behind us, and so be it. But do not 
try to hide from Truth; you will never elude her. If you must love 
mankind, then pity our sorry brotherhood.« 

She was sitting with her hands clasped behind her head, in an 
attitude of blissful repose, foolishly happy, almost beside herself. 
She moved her head from side to side, her eyes half closed in a day* 
dream, spoke slowly, almost chanting her words. 

»My own! My love! We will drink together! We will weep to* 
gether. Oh, how delightful it will be to weep with you, dear one. I 
would so weep all my life. He has stayed with me. He has not gone 
away. When I saw him today, in the glass, it burst upon me at once : 
This is he! — my betrothed! — my darling! And I do not know 
who you are, brother or bridegroom of mine. But oh, so closely kin, 
so much desired . . .« 

32 



He, too, remembered that black dumb pair in the gilded mirror, 
— and the passing thought: as at a funeral. And all at once the whole 
thing became so intolerably painful, seemed so wild a nightmare, 
that he ground his teeth in his grief. His thoughts travelled farther 
back; he remembered his treasured revolver in his pocket, the two 
days of constant flight, the plain door that had no handle, and how 
he looked for a bell, and how a fat lackey who had not yet got his 
coat on straight had come out in a dirty printed linen shirt, and how 
he had entered with the proprietress into that white hall and seen 
those three strange girls. 

And with it all a feeling of growing freedom came over him and 
at last he grasped that he was, as he had ever been, free — absolu* 
tely free — that he could go wherever he liked. 

Sternly now he surveyed that strange room, severely, with the 
conviction of a man aroused for an instant from a debauch, seeing 
himself in foreign surroundings and condemning what he sees. 

»What is all this? How idiotic! What a senseless nightmare !« 

But — the music was still playing on. But — the woman was still 
sitting with her hands clasped behind her head, smiling, unable to 
speak, almost fainting under the load of a happiness beyond sense 
and experience. But — this was not a dream! 

»What is all this? Is this - Truth ?« 

»Truth, my darling! You and I inseparable !« 

This was Truth? Truth — those crumpled petticoats hanging on 
the wall in their bare disorder? Truth — that carpet on which thou* 
sands of drunken men had scuffled in spasms of hideous passion? 
Truth — this stale, moist fragrance, loathesomely cleaving to the face? 
Truth — that music and the jingling spurs? Truth — that woman 
with her pale and harassed face and smile of pitiful bliss? 

Again he rested his heavy head on his hands, looking askance with 
the eyes of a wolf at bay; and his thoughts ran on without connec* 
tion. 

So she was Truth! . . . That meant that tomorrow and the day after 
he would not go, and everyone would know why he had not gone, 
that he had stayed with a jirl, drinking ; and they would call him 
traitor and coward and rascal. Some would intercede for him — would 
guess . . . no, better not count on that, better see it all as it was! All 
over then? Was this the end? Into the dark — thus — into the dark? 
And what lay beyond? He did not know. In the dark? Probably 

3 33 



some new horror. But then as yet he did not understand their ways. 
How strange that one had to learn to be common I And from whom? 
From her? No, she was no use. She didn't know anything. He would 
find out for himself. One had to become really common oneself in 
order to . . . Yes, he would wreck something that was great 1 And 
then? And then, some day he would come back to her, or where they 
were drinking, or into a prison, and he would say: »Now I am not 
ashamed, now I am not guilty in any respect in your eyes. Now I am 
one like you, besmirched, fallen, unhappy I* Or he would go into 
the open street and say: »Look at me, what I ami I had everything 
— intellect, honour, dignity — stranger still, immortality. And all this 
I flung at the feet of a whore. I renounced it all because she was com* 
monk What would they say? They would gape, and be astoun* 
ded, and say, »What a foolk Yes — yes, a fool! Was he guilty be* 
cause he was fine? Let her — let everyone — try to be fine! »Sell all 
thou hast and give to the poor.« But that was just what he had done, 
all that he had. But this was Christ — in whom he did not believe . . . 
Or perhaps . . . »He who loses his souk — not his life, but his soul . . . 
That was what he was contemplating. Perhaps . . . did Christ himself 
sin with the sinners, commit adultery, get drunk? No, he only for* 
gave those who did, and even loved them. Well, so did he love and 
forgive and pity her. Then, why sacrifice himself? For she was not 
of the faith. Nor he. Nor was this Christ; but something else, some* 
thing more dreadful. 

»Oh, this is dreadful, Liubak 

»Dreadful, darling? Yes, it is dreadful to see Truth.« 

Truth — again she named it! But what made it dreadful? Why 
should he dread what he so desired? No — no — there was nothing 
to fear. There, in the open, in front of all those gaping mouths, would 
he not be the highest of them all? Though naked and dirty and rag* 
ged — and his face would be horrible then — he who had lost — 
abandoned himself, would he not be the terrible proclaimer of justice 
eternal, to which God himself must submit — otherwise he were 
not God? 

»There is nothing dreadful about it, Liuba.« 

»Yes, darling, there is. You are not afraid, and that is well. But 
do not provoke it. There is no need to do that.« 

»So that is it — that is my end! It is not what I expected — not what 
I expected for the end of my young and beautiful life. My God, but 

34 



this is senseless! I must have gone mad! Still it is not too late . . . not 
too late ... I can still escape. « 

»My darling,« the woman was murmuring, her hands still clasped 
behind her head. 

He glanced at her and frowned. Her eyes were blissfully closed; a 
happy, unthinking smile upon her lips expressed an unquenchable 
thirst, an insatiable hunger, as though she had just tasted something 
and was preparing for more. 

He looked down on her and frowned — on her thin soft arms, on 
the dark hollows of her armpits; and he got up without any haste. 
With a last effort to save something precious — life or reason, or the 
good old Truth — without any flurry, but solemnly, he began dres* 
sing himself. He could not find his collar. 

»Tell me, have you seen my collar ?« 

»Where are you going?« The woman looked round. Her hands 
fell away from her head, and the whole of her strained forward to* 
wards him. 

»I am going away.« 

»You are going away?« she repeated, dragging the words. »You 
are going? Where ?« 

He smiled derisively. 

»As if I had nowhere to go! I am going to my comrades.« 

»To the fine folk? Have you cheated me?« 

»Yes. To the fine folk.« Again the same smile. He had finished 
dressing, he was feeling his pockets. 

»Give me my pocket*book.« 

She handed it to him. 

»And my watch. « 

She gave it to him. They had been lying together on the little table. 

»Goodbye.« 

»Are you frightened ?« 

The question was quiet and simple. He looked up. There stood a 
woman, tall and shapely, with thin, almost child* like arms, a pale 
smile, and blanched lips, asking: »Are you frightened ?« 

How strangely she could change! Sometimes forceful and even 
terrible, she was now pathetic and more like a girl than a woman. 
But all this was of no account. He stepped toward the door. 

»But I thought you were going to stay . . .« 

»What?« 

y 35 



»The key's in your pocket for my sake.« 

The lock was already creaking. 

»Very well, then! Go ... go to your comrades and . . .« 

It was then, at the last moment, when he had nothing to do but 
to open the door and go out and seek his comrades and end a noble 
life with a heroic death — it was then he committed the wild, incom* 
prehensible act that ruined his life. It may have been a frenzy that 
sometimes unaccountably siezes hold of the strongest and calmest 
minds ; or it may have been actually that, through the drunken sera* 
ping of a fiddle somewhere in that bawdy house, through the sorcery 
of the downcast eyes of a prostitute, he discovered a last new terrible 
truth of life, a truth of his own, which none other could see and 
understand. Whichever it were — insanity or revelation, lies or truth, 
this new understanding of his — he accepted it manfully and uncon* 
ditionally, with that inflexible spirit which had drawn his previous 
life along one straight, fiery line, directing its flight like the feathers 
on an arrow. 

He passed his hand slowly, very slowly, over his hard, bristly 
skull, and, without even shutting the door, simply returned and sat 
in his former place on the bed. His broad cheekbones, his paleness, 
made him look more than ever a foreigner. 

» What's the matter? Have you forgotten something ?« 

The girl was astonished. She no longer expected anything. 

»No.« 

»What is it? Why don't you go?« 

Quietly, with the expression of a stone on which life has engraved 
one last commandment, grim and new, he answered: 

»I do not wish to be fine.« 

She still waited, not daring to believe, suddenly shrinking from 
what she had so much sought and yearned for. She knelt down. He 
smiled gently, and in the same new and impressive manner stood 
over her and placed his hand on her head and repeated: 

»I do not want to be fine.« 

The woman busied herself swiftly in her joy. She undressed him 
like a child, unlaced his boots, fumbling at the knots, stroked his 
head, his knees, and never so much as smiled — so full was her heart. 
Then she looked up into his face and was afraid. 

»How pale you are ! Drink something now — at once ! Are you feel* 
ing ill, Peter?« 

36 



»My name is Alexis. « 

»Never mind that. Here, let me give you some in a glass. Well, 
take care then; don't choke yourself! If you're not used to it, it's not 
so easy as out of a glass.« 

She opened her mouth, seeing him drink with slow, sceptical gulps. 
He coughed. 

»Never mind! You'll be a good drinker, I can see that! Oh, how 
happy I am !« 

With an animal cry she leapt on him, and began smothering him 
with short, vigorous kisses, to which he had no time to respond. It 
was funny — she was a stranger, yet kissed so hard! He held her 
firmly for a moment, held her immovable, and was silent awhile, 
himself motionless — held her as though he too felt the strength of 
quiescence, the strength of a woman, as his own strength. And the 
woman, joyously, obediently, became limp in his arms. 

»So be it!« he said, with an imperceptible sigh. 

The woman bestirred herself anew, burning in the savagery of her 
joy as in a fire. Her movements filled the room, as if she were not 
one but a score of half-witted women who spoke, stirred, went to 
and fro, kissed him. She plied him with cognac, and drank more 
herself. Then a sudden recollection siezed her; she clasped her 
hands. 

»But the revolver — we forgot that! Give it to me — quick, quick! 
I must take it to the office.« 

»Why?« 

»Oh, I'm scared of the thing! Would it go off at once?« 

He smiled, and repeated: 

»Would it go off at once? Yes, it would. At once!« 

He took out his revolver, and, deliberately weighing in his hand 
that silent and obedient weapon, gave it to the girl. He also handed 
her the cartridge clips. 

»Take them !« 

When he was left alone and without the revolver he had carried so 
many years, the half open door letting in the sound of strange voices 
and the clink of spurs, he felt the whole weight of the great burden 
he had taken on his shoulders. He walked silently across the room 
in the direction where They were to be found, and said one word: 

»Well?« 

A chill came over him as he crossed his arms, facing Them; and 

37 



that one little word held many meanings — a last farewell — some 
obscure challenge, some irrevocable evil resolution to fight everyone, 
even his own comrades — a little, a very little, sense of reproach. 

He was still standing there when Liuba ran in, excitedly calling to 
him from the door. 

»Dearie, dearie, now don't be angry. I've asked my friends here, 
some of them. You don't mind? You see, I want so much to show 
them my sweetheart, my darling; you don't mind? They're dears! 
Nobody has taken them this evening and they're all alone. The offi* 
cers have gone to bed now. One of them noticed your revolver and 
liked it. A very fine one, he said. You don't mind? You don't mind, 
dear?« And the girl smothered him with short, sharp kisses. 

The women were already coming in, chattering and simpering — 
five or six of the ugliest or oldest of the establishment — painted, 
with drooping eyes, their hair combed up over their brows. Some 
of them affected attitudes of shame, and giggled; others quietly eyed 
the cognac, and looking at him earnestly shook hands. Apparently 
they had already been to bed; they were all in scanty wrappers; one 
very fat woman, indolent and indifferent, had come in nothing but 
a petticoat, her bare arms and corpulent bosom incredibly fat. This 
fat woman, and another one with an evil birdslike aged face, on 
which the white paint lay like dirty stucco on a wall, were quite 
drunk; the others were merry. All this mob of women, half naked, 
giggling, surrounded him; and an intolerable stench of bodies and 
stale beer rose and mingled with the clammy, soapy air of the room- 
A sweating lackey hurried in with cognac, dressed in a tight frock* 
coat much too small for him, and the girls greeted him with a 
chorus of: 

»Markushal Oh, Markusha! Dear Markushak 

Apparently it was a custom of the house to greet him with such 
exclamations, for even the fat drunken woman murmured lazily, 
»Markusha!« 

They drank and clinked glasses, all talking at once about affairs 
of their own. The evilslooking woman with the bird*like face was 
irritably and noisily telling of a guest who took her for a time . . . 
and then something had happened. There was much interchange of 
gutterswords and phrases, pronounced not with the indifference of 
men, but with a peculiar asperity, even acidity; and every object 
was called by its proper name. 

* 

38 



At first they paid little heed to him, and he maintained an obstin* 
ate silence, merely looking on. Liuba, full of her happiness, sat 
quietly beside him on the bed, one arm about his neck, herself drink* 
ing little, but constantly plying him, and from time to time whiss 
pering in his ear, »Darling!« 

He drank heavily, but it did not make him tipsy; what was happen* 
ing in him was something different, something which strong alcohol 
often secretly effects. Whilst he drank and sat there silent, the work 
was going on in him, vast, destructive, swift, and numbing. It was 
as though all he had known in his past life, all he had loved and 
meditated — talks with companions, books, perilous and alluring 
tasks — was noiselessly being burned, annihilated without a trace, and 
he himself not injured in the process, but rather made stronger and 
harder. With every glass he drank he seemed to return to some 
earlier self of his, to some primitive rebel ancestor, for whom rebellion 
was religion and religion rebellion. Like a colour being washed away 
in boiling water, his foreign bookish wisdom was fading and was 
being replaced by something of his very own, wild and dark as the 
black earth — from whose bleak stretches, from the infinitudes of 
slumbrous forest and boundless plain, blew the wind that was the 
life*breath of this ultimate blind wisdom of his; and in this wind 
could be heard the tumultuous jangling of bells, and through it could 
be seen the bloodsred dawn of great fires, and the clank of iron 
fetters, and the rapture of prayer, and the Satanic laughter of myriad 
giant throats; and above his uncovered head the murky dome of 
the sky. 

Thus he sat. Broad cheeked, pallid, already quite at home with 
these miserable creatures racketing around him. And, in his soul, 
laid waste by the conflagration of a desolated world, there glowed 
and gleamed, like a white fire of incandescent steel, one thing alone 
— his flaming will; blind now and purposeless, it was still greedily 
reaching out afar, while his body, undisturbed, was secretly being 
steeled in the feeling of limitless power and ability to create all things 
or to shatter all things at will. 

Suddenly he hammered on the table with his fist. 

»Drink, Liubka! Drink!« 

And when, radiant and smiling, she had poured herself out a glass, 
he lifted his, and cried aloud. 

»Here's to our Brotherhood !« 

39 



»You mean Them?« whispered Liuba. 

»No, these. To our Brotherhood! To the blackguards, brutes and 
cowards, to those who are crushed by life, to those perishing from 
syphilis, to . . .« 

The other girls laughed, the fat one indolently objecting: 

»Oh, come, that's going a bit too far, my dear!« 

»Hush!« said Liuba, turning very pale, »He is my betrothed.« 

»To those who are blind from birth I Ye who can see, pluck out 
your eyes! For it is shameful« — and he banged on the table — »it 
is shameful for those who have sight to look upon those who are 
blind from birth! If with our light we cannot illumine all the dark* 
ness, then let us put out the signal fires, let us all crawl in the dark! 
If there be not paradise for all, then I will have none for myself! 
And this, girls, this is no part of paradise, but simply and plainly 
a piggery! A toast, girls! That all the signal fires be extinguished. 
Drink! To the Dark!« 

He staggered a little as he drank off his glass. He spoke rather 
thickly, but firmly, precisely, with pauses, enunciating every syllable. 
Nobody understood his wild speech, but they found him pleasing 
in himself, his pale figure and his peculiar quality of wickedness. 
Then Liuba suddenly took up the word, stretching out her hands. 

»He is my betrothed. He will stay with me. He was virtuous and 
had comrades, and now he will stay with me!« 

»Come and take Markusha's place, « the fat woman drawled. 

»Shut up, Manka, or I'll smash your face! He will stay with me. 
He was virtuous . . .« 

»We were all virtuous once,« the evil old woman grumbled. And 
the others joined in: »I was straight four years ago . . . I'm an honour* 
able woman still ... I swear to God . . .« 

Liuba was nearly weeping. 

»Silence, you sluts ! You had your honour taken from you ; but he 
gives it me himself. He takes it and gives it for my honour. But I don't 
want honour! You're a lot of . . . and he's still an innocent boy!« 

She broke into sobs. There was a general outburst of laughter. 
They guffawed as only the drunken can, without any restraint; the 
little room, saturated with sounds, and unable to absorb any more, 
threw it all back in a deafening roar. They laughed until the tears 
fell ; they rolled together and groaned with it. The fat woman clucked 
in a little thin voice and tumbled exhausted from her chair. 

40 



And, last of all, he laughed out loud at the sight of them. 

It was as though the Satanic world itself had foregathered there 
to laugh to its grave that little sprig of virtue, the dead innocence 
itself joining in the laughter. 

The only one who did not laugh was Liuba. Trembling with 
agitation, she wrung her hands and shouted at them, and finally 
flung herself with her fists on the fat woman, who even with her 
beamslike arms could hardly ward off her blows. 

»So be it!« he shouted in his laughter. But the others could hear 
nothing. 

At last the noise died down a little. 

»So be it!« he cried, a second time. »But, peace 1 Silence! — I have 
something to show you!« 

»Leave them alone,« said Liuba, wiping her tears away with her 
fist. »We must get rid of them.« 

Still shaking with laughter he turned round to face her. 

»Are you frightened ?« he asked. »Was it honour you wanted 
after all? You fool! It's the only thing you ever have wanted! Leave 
me alone !« 

Without taking any more notice of her, he addressed himself to 
the others, rising and holding his closed hands above his head. 

»Listen! I'll show you something! Look here, at my hands !« 

Merry and curious, they looked at his hands, and waited obediently, 
like children, with gaping mouths. 

»Here! Here! See?« He shook his hands. »I hold my life in my 
hands! Do you see?« 

»Yes! Yes! Go on!« 

»My life was noble, it was! It was pure and beautiful. Yes, it was! 
It was like those pretty porcelain vases. And now, look! I fling it 
away . . .« He let fall his hands, almost with a groan, and all their 
eyes looked downwards as though there really lay something down 
there, something delicate and brittle, that had been shattered into 
fragments — a beautiful human life. 

»Trample on it, now, girls! Trample it to pieces until not a bit of 
it is left!« 

Like children enjoying a new game, with a whoop and a laugh, 
they leapt up and began trampling on the spot where lay the frag* 
ments of that invisible dainty porcelain, a beautiful human life. Gra* 
dually a new frenzy overcame them. The laughter and shrieks died 

41 



away, and nothing but their heavy breathing was audible above the 
continuous stamping and clatter of feet — rabid, unrelenting, impla* 
cable. 

Liuba, like an affronted queen, watched it a moment over his 
shoulder with savage eyes ; then suddenly, as though she had only j ust 
understood and been driven mad, with a wild groan of elation she 
burst into the midst of the jostling women and joined the trampling 
in a faster measure. But for the earnestness of the drunken faces, the 
ferocity of the bleary eyes, the wickedness of the depraved and 
twisted mouths, it might all have been taken for some new kind of 
dance without music, without rhythm. 

With his fingers gripping into his hard bristly skull, the man looked 
on, calm and grim. 

VI 

Two voices were speaking in the dark — Liuba's, intimate, ten* 
tative, sensitive, with delicate intonations of private apprehension 

such as a woman's voice always gains in the dark and his, hard, 

quiet, distant. He spoke his words too precisely, too harshly — the 
only sign of intoxication not quite passed away. 

»Are your eyes open?« she asked. 

»Yes.« 

»Are you thinking about something?« 

»Yes.« 

Silence — and the dark. Then again the thoughtful, vigilant voice 
of the woman. 

»Tell me something more about your comrades, will you?« 

»What for? . . . They — they were.« 

He said WERE as the living speak of the dead, or as the dead 
might speak of the living, and through the even course of his calm 
and almost indifferent narration it resounded like a funeral knell, as 
though he were an old man telling his children the heroic tale of a 
long departed past. And, in the darkness, before the girl's enchanted 
eyes, there rose the image of a little group of young men, pitifully 
young, bereft of father and mother, and hopelessly hostile both to 
the world they were fighting and to the world they were fighting for. 
Having travelled by dream to the distant future, to the land of broth* 
erly men as yet unborn, they lived their short lives like pale blood* 
stained shadows or spectres, the scarecrows of humanity. And their 
lives were stupidly short — the gallows awaited every one of them, 

42 



or penal servitude, or insanity — nothing else to look forward to but 
prison, the scaffold, or the madhouse. And there were women among 
them . . . 

Liuba started and raised herself on her elbows. 

» Women? What do you mean, darling?« 

»Young, gentle girls, still in their teens. They follow in the steps 
of the men, manfully, daringly, die with them . . .« 

»Die! Oh my God!« she cried, clutching his shoulder. 

»What? Are you touched by this?« 

»Never mind, darling. I sometimes . . . Go on with your story! 
Go on!« 

And he went on with his story, and there happened a wonderfu 
thing. Ice was turned into fire. Through the funeral notes of hi 
requiem speech, suddenly rang for the girl, her eyes wide open now 
and burning, the gospel of a new, joyous, and mighty life. Tears rose 
in her eyes and dried there as in a furnace; she was excited to the 
pitch of rebellion, eager for every word. Like a hammer upon glow* 
ing iron, his words were forging in her a new responsive soul 
Steadily, regularly, it fell — beating the soul ever to a finer temper 

— and suddenly, in the suffocating stench of that room, there spoke 
aloud a new and unknown voice, the voice of a human being. 

»Darling, am I not also a woman?« 

»What do you mean?« 

»I also might go with Them?« 

He did not reply, and in his silence he seemed to her so remarks 
able and so great (he had been Their comrade, had lived with 
Them) that it felt uncomfortable to be lying beside him, embracing 
him. She moved away a little and left only a hand touching him, so 
that the contact might be less; and forgetting her hatred of the Fine, 
her tears and curses, and the long years of inviolable solitude in 
the depths — overcome by the beauty and selfedenial of Their lives 

— her face flushed with excitement, and she was ready to weep at 
the terrible thought that They might not accept her. 

»Dear, but will they take me? My God, if they won't! What do 
you think? Tell me they'll take me — they won't be squeamish! They 
won't say: You are impossible, you are vile, you have sold yourself! 
Answer me!« 

Silence — and then a reply that rejoiced. 

»Yes, they will! Why not, indeed ?« 

43 



»Oh, my darling, But . . .« 

»Fine people, they are 1« The man's voice had the finality of a big 
fat full stop, but the girl triumphantly repeated, with a touching 
confidence: 

»Yes! They are fine!« 

And so radiant was her smile that it seemed as if the very dark* 
ness smiled in sympathy and some little stars strayed in as well, 
little blue points of light. For a new truth had reached Her — one 
that brought not fear, but joy. 

Then the shy suppliant voice. 

»Let us go to them, dear? You'll take me with you? You won't 
be ashamed of having such a companion? For they'll accept me, 
won't they? Just as you did when you came here? Surely you were 
driven here for some purpose 1 But — to stay here — you would simply 
drop into the cesspool. As for me, I — I — I will try. Why don't 
you say anything ?« 

Grim silence again, in which could be heard the beating of two 
hearts — one rapid, hurried, excited; the other hard and slow, 
strongely slow. 

»Would you be shamed to go back with such as me?« 

A stern prolonged silence, and then a reply, solid and inflexible 
as unpolished rock: 

»I am not going back. I don't want to be fine.« 

Silence. Then presently: 

»They are gentlemen,« he said, and his voice sounded solitary 
and strained. 

»Who?« she asked, dully. 

»They — Those who were.« 

A long silence — this time as though a bird had thrown itself 
down and was falling, whirling through the air on its pliant wings, 
but unable to reach the earth, unable to srike the ground and lie 
at rest. 

In the dark he knew that Liuba, silently, carefully, making the 
least stir possible, passed over him; was busying herself with some* 
thing. 

»What are you doing ?« 

»I don't like lying there like that. I want to get dressed.« 

Then she must have put something on and sat down; for the chair 
creaked ever so little ; and it became so still — as silent as though 

44 



the room were empty. The stillness lasted a long time; and then the 
calm, serious voice spoke: 

»I think, Liuba, there is still one cognac left on the table. Take a 
drink and come and lie down again.« 

VII 

Day was already dawning, and in the house all was as quiet as in 
any other house, when the police appeared. After long arguments 
and hesitations Mark had been dispatched to the police station with 
the revolver and cartridges and a circumstantial account of the strange 
visitor. The police at once guessed who he was. For three days they 
had had him on their nerves. They had been seeing him here, there, 
and everywhere; but finally, all trace of him had been lost. Some* 
body had suggested searching the brothels of the district; but just 
then somebody else got another false clue, so the public resorts were 
forgotten. 

The telephone tinkled excitedly. Half an hour later, in the chill 
of the October morning, heavy boots were scrunching the hoar-frost 
and along the empty streets moved in silence a company of policemen 
and detectives. In front of them, feeling in every inch of his body 
what a mistake it was to take the risks of such exposure, marched the 
district superintendent, an elderly man, very tall, in a thick official 
overcoat, the shape of a sack. He was yawning, burying his flabby 
red nose in his grey whiskers ; and he was thinking that he ought to 
wait for the military; that it was nonsense to go for such a man with* 
out soldiers, with nothing but stupid drowsy policemen who didn't 
know how to shoot. More than once he reached the point of calling 
himself the slave of duty, yawning every time long and heavily. 

The superintendent was a drunkard, a regular debauchee of the 
resorts of his district; and they paid him heavily for the right to exist. 
He had no desire to die. When they called him from his bed, he had 
nursed his revolver for a long time from one greasy palm to the other, 
and although there was little time to spare he had ordered them to 
clean his jacket, as though for a review. That very night at the police 
station, he remembered, conversation had turned on this same man 
who had been dodging them all, and the superintendent, with the 
cynicism of an old sot, had called the man a hero and himself an old 
police trollop. When his assistants laughed, he had assured them that 
such heroes must exist, if only to be hanged. »You hang him — and 

45 



it pleases you both: him because he is going straight to the Kingdom 
of Heaven, and you as a demonstration that brave men still exist. 
Don't snigger — it's true.« 

On that chill October morning, marching along the cold streets, 
he appreciated clearly that the talk of yesterday was lies; that the 
man was nothing but a rascal. He was ashamed of his own boyish 
extravagance. 

»A hero, indeed !« the superintendent prayerfully recanted. »Lord, 
if he so much as stirs a finger, the blackguard, I'll kill him like a dog. 
By God, I will !« 

And that set him thinking why he, the superintendent, an old man 
full of gout, so much desired to live. Because there was hoar frost on 
the streets? He turned round and shouted savagely: »Quick march, 
there! Don't go like sheep !« 

The wind blew into his overcoat. His jacket was too wide and his 
whole body quivered in it like the yolk of an egg in a stirring basin. 
He felt as if he was suddenly shrinking. The palms of his hands, 
despite the cold, were still sweaty. 

They surrounded the house as though they had come to take not 
one sleeper but a host in ambush. Then some of them crept along 
the dark corridor on tiptoe to the fearsome door. 

A desperate knock — a shout — threats to shoot through the door. 
And when, almost knocking Liuba, half naked, off her feet, they 
burst into the little room in close formation and filled it with their 
boots and cloaks and rifles — then they saw him — sitting on the bed 
in his shirt, with his bare hairy legs hanging down — sitting there 
silent. No bomb — nothing terrible — nothing but the ordinary room 
of a prostitute, filthy and repulsive in the early morning light, with 
its stretch of tattered carpet and scattered clothes, the table smeared 
and stained with liquor — and sitting on the bed a man, clean shaven 
and with drowsy eyes, high cheekbones, a swollen face, hairy legs 
— silent. 

»Hands up!« shouted the superintendent, holding his revolver 
tighter in his damp hand. 

But the man neither raised his arms nor made any answer. 

»Search him!« the superintendent ordered. 

^There's nothing to search! I took his revolver away. Oh, my 
Godk Liuba cried, her teeth chattering with fear. She had nothing 
on but a crumpled chemise ; among the others, all wrapped in their 

46 



cloaks, the two, man and woman, both half naked, roused feelings 
of shame, disgust, and contempt. 

They searched his clothing, ransacked the carpet, peered into the 
corners, into the cupboard, and found nothing. 

»I took his revolver from him,« Liuba thoughtlessly insisted. 

»Silence Liubka!« the superintendent shouted. He knew the girl 
well, had spent two or three nights with her. He believed her; but 
his relief was so unexpected that out of sheer pleasure he wanted to 
shout and command and show his authority. 

»Your name?« 

»I shall not say. I shall not answer any questions at all. « 

»A11 right, sir, all right,« the superintendent replied ironically, but 
somewhat abashed. Then he looked again at the naked hairy feet and 
at the girl shuddering in the corner, and suddenly became suspicious. 

»Is this the right man?« he said, taking a detective aside. »Some? 
thing seems . . .« 

The detective went and stared closely in the man's face, then nod* 
ded his head decisively. 

»Yes. It's he. He's only shaved his beard. You can recognise him 
by his cheekbones.« 

»A brigand's cheekbones, sure enough. « 

»And look at the eyes, too. I could pick him out of a thousand 
by his eyes.« 

»His eyes? Let me see the photograph.« 

He took a long look at the unfinished proof photograph of a man, 
very handsome, wonderfully pure and young, with a long bushy 
Russian beard. The expression on the face was the same. Not grim, 
but very calm and bright. The cheekbones were not markedly pro? 
minent. 

"»You see! His cheekbones don't stand out like . . .« 

»They are concealed by the beard, but if you feel under it with 
the eye . . .« 

»It may be, but ... Is he a hard drinker ?« 

The detective, tall and thin, with a yellow face and sparse beard, 
himself a hard drinker, smiled patronizingly. 

»There's no drinking among them.« 

»I know there isn't but still . . .« The superintendent approached the 

man. »Listen! Were you an accomplice in the murder of N ?« 

It was a very important and well known name. 

47 



But the man remained silent and only smiled and fidgeted with 
one hairy leg; the toes were bent and distorted by boots. 

»You are being examined !« 

»You may as well leave him alone. He won't reply. We'd better 
wait for the captain and prosecutor. They'll make him talk.« 

The superintendent smiled, but in his heart for some reason he 
felt the shrinking again. 

They had been tearing up the carpet; they had upset something, 
and there was a very unpleasant smell in the ilbventilated room. 

»What filth !« thought the superintendent, though in the matter 
of cleanliness he was by no means nice. And he looked with disgust 
at that naked swinging foot. »So he is still fidgeting with his foot,« 
he thought. 

He turned round; a young policeman, with pure white eyelashes 
and eyebrows, was sneering at Liuba, holding his rifle with both 
hands as a village night watchman holds his staff. 

»Well, Liubka,« the superintendent cried, approaching her. »Why 
didn't you report at once who you had with you, you bitch ?« 

»Oh, I was . . .« 

The superintendent smacked her face twice, quite neatly, first on 
one cheek then on the other. 

»Take that then! I'll show you!« 

The man's brows went up and the foot ceased swinging. 

»So you don't like that, young fellow ?« The contempt of the 
superintendent was growing apace. »What are you going to do about 
it? You kissed this face, didn't you, and we'll do what we damn 
well . . .« 

He laughed, and the policeman smiled in some agitation. And 
what was more surprising, even the downtrodden Liuba laughed. 
She looked at the old superintendent in a friendly way, as though 
she enjoyed his jokes and jollity. 

From the moment of the arrival of the police she had never looked 
at the man, betraying him naturally and openly; and this he saw, 
and was silent and smiled half scoffingly, a strange smile — as a gray 
stone in the forest, sunk into the ground and mossgrown, might 
smile. 

Half dressed women were crowding about the door, amongst them 
some of those who had visited them. But they looked at him indiffe* 
rently, with a dull curiosity, as though this was the first time they 

48 



had seen him. Apparently they remembered nothing of the night. 
They were soon hustled away. 

It was now daylight, and the room was more bleak and repulsive 
than ever. Two officers who evidently had not had their full sleep 
came in, their faces ruffled, but properly dressed and clean. 

»It's no good, gentlemen, really,« the superintendent said with a 
spiteful glance at the man. The officers approached, looked him up 
and down from his crown to his naked feet with those bent toes, 
surveyed Liuba, and casually exchanged observations. 

»Yes — he's good looking,« said the young one, the one who had 
invited them all to the cotillion. He had splendid white teeth and 
silky whiskers and soft eyes with girlish lashes. He looked at the 
arrested man with disdainful compassion, and wrinkled his eyes as 
if he were going to cry. There was a corn on the left little toe . . . 
somehow it was horrible and disgusting to see that little yellow 
mound. And the legs were dirty. »This is a fine pass for you to 
come to, sir,« he said, shaking his head and painfully contracting 
his brows. 

»So that's how it is, Mr. Anarchist? You're no better than us 
sinners with the girls? The flesh was weak, eh?« jeered the other, 
the elder. 

»Why did you give up your revolver? You might at least have 
had a shot for it. I understand that you found yourself here, as 
anyone might find himself; but why did you give up your revolver? 
A poor example to set your comrades !« said the little officer, hotly ; 
and then explained to the elder: »He had a Browning with three 
cartridge clips. Just think of itl Stupid!« 

But the man, smiling contemptuously from the height of his new, 
unmeasured, and terrible truth, looked on the little excited officer 
and indifferently kept on swinging his leg. The fact of his being 
nearly naked, of having dirty hairy legs with bent and crooked toes, 
gave him no sense of shame. Had they taken him just as he was and 
planted him in the most populous square of the city, in front of all 
the men and women and children, he would have gone on dangling 
that hairy leg with the same equanimity, smiling the same diss 
dainful smile. 

»Do they know what comradeship is?« said the superintendent. 
He was savagely looking askance at that swaying leg, and indolently 
trying to dissuade the officers. »It's no good talking to him, gentle* 

4 49 



men, I swearl No good! You know the kind of thing — instruct 
tions!« 

Other officers entered quite freely, surveyed the scene and chatted 
together. One of them, evidently an old acquaintance of the super* 
intendent, shook hands with him. Liuba was already coquetting 
with the officers. 

»Just imagine! A Browning with three clips and, like a fool, he 
gave it up!« the little officer was relating. »I can't understand that!« 

»You, Misha, will never understand this.« 

»For, after all, they are no cowards !« 

»You, Misha, are an idealist, and the milk has not yet dried on 
your lips.« 

»Samson and Delilah, « one short snuffling officer said ironically; 
he had a little drooping nose and thin whiskers combed back and 
upwards. 

»Oh Delilah! What a smiler!« 

They laughed. 

The superintendent, smiling pleasantly and rubbing his flabby 
red nose downwards, suddenly approached the man and stood as if 
to screen him from the officers with his own carcase encased in the 
loose hanging coat; and he murmured under his breath, rolling his 
eyes wildly : 

»Shameful, sir! You might at least have put your drawers on, 
sir! Shameful! And a hero, too? Involved with a prostitute . . . 
with this carrionsflesh? What will your comrades say of you, — 
eh, you cur?« 

Liuba, stretching her naked neck, heard him. They were together 
now, side by side, these three plain truths of life, the corrupt old 
drunkard who yearned for heroes, the dissolute woman into whose 
soul some scattered seeds of purpose and self-denial had fallen — 
and the man. After the superintendent's words, he paled slightly, 
and seemed to wish to say something — but changed his mind and 
smiled, and went on swinging that hairy leg. 

The officers wandered off; the police accomodated themselves to 
the situation, to the presence of the half naked couple, and stood 
about sleepily, with that absence of visible thought which renders 
the faces of all guards alike. 

The superintendent put his hands on the table and pondered 
deeply and sadly — that he would not get a nap today, that he would 

50 



have to go to the station and set matters on foot. But something 
else made him even more melancholy and weary. 

»May I dress myself?« asked Liuba. 

»No!« 

»I'm cold.« 

»Never mind — sit as you are!« 

The superintendent didn't even look at her. So she turned away, 
and, stretching out her thin neck, whispered something to the man, 
softly, with her lips only. He raised his brows in enquiry, and she 
repeated: 

»Darling! My Darling !« 

He nodded and smiled affectionately. Then seeing him smile to 
to her so gently, though plainly forgetting nothing — seeing him, 
who was so handsome and proud, now naked and despised by all, 
with his dirty bare legs, she was suddenly flushed with a feeling of 
unbearable love and demoniac blind wrath. She gasped, and flung 
herself on her knees on that damp floor, and embraced those cold 
hairy feet. 

»Dress yourself, darling !« she murmured in an ecstasy. »Dress 
yourself! « 

»Liubka, stop this!« The superintendent dragged her away. »He's 
not worth it!« 

The girl sprang to her feet. 

»Silence, you old profligate! He's better than the whole lot of you 
put together !« 

»He's a swine !« 

» You're a swine !« 

»What?« The superintendent promptly lost his temper. »Tackle 
her, my man! Hold her down. Leave your rifle alone, you block* 
headl« 

»Oh, darling, why did you give up your revolver?« the girl 
moaned, struggling with the policeman. »Why didn't you bring a 
bomb? We might have . . . might have . . . them all to . . .« 

»Gag herl« 

The panting woman struggled desperately, trying to bite the rough 
fingers that were holding her. The policeman with the white eye? 
lashes, disconcerted, not knowing how to fight a woman, was seizing 
her by her hair, by her breasts, trying to fling her on the ground and 
sniffing in his desperation. 

v ( 51 



From the corridor new voices were heard, loud, unconcerned, and 
the jangle of a police officer's spurs. A sweet, sincere, barytone voice 
was leading, as though a star was making his entrance and now at 
last the real and serious opera was about to commence. 

The superintendent pulled his coat straight. 



52 



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